When Ted Turner established WTBS as the first satellite-bounced, 24-hour TV station in the late 1970s, Bill Tush was the young fellow tasked with providing much of the station’s after-hours content.
His comedy newscast – he was a poor man’s Jon Stewart with neckties as wide as a mobile home — made Tush something of a national cult figure, though he concedes that much of his young audience was probably either drunk or stoned.
Tush is now semi-retired and a member of the Eagle’s Landing Country Club in Stockbridge. Off the links and over several months of drinks and conversation, Tush made the acquaintance of a fellow club member named Herman Cain.
“I knew he had been the president of a pizza company. And he had a radio gig,” Tush said this week. Other topics – politics, say – never came up.
“I’ve always been friendly with people in the political sphere, but I never considered [Cain] a political person. And then – blam! – there he was, running for president. And I’m thinking, ‘This is the guy I used to sit in the corner [and shoot the breeze with].’”
Tush had just learned the same lesson that many of us are only now faced with. Just because you know one part of Herman Cain doesn’t mean you know the whole of the man.
This latest allegation, that Cain conducted a 13-year, off-and-on affair with a Dunwoody woman named Ginger White, only emphasizes a picture that was already forming.
Herman Cain is a driven candidate with many watertight compartments.
White says she met the future presidential candidate in Kentucky, while Cain was still president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain says that White’s claim of a sexual connection amounts to character assassination, but admits the pair had a “friendship relationship” and says he sometimes provided White financial assistance.
Yet the GOP candidate also says that neither his wife nor his family know the woman. Which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise.
Citing a discomfort with the American system of vetting political candidates, Cain has sequestered his family from his campaign — with a single exception. When sexual harassment charges first surfaced last month, his wife of 43 years, Gloria Cain, submitted to an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
“This isn’t Herman,” Gloria Cain said. So far, there has been no talk of a repeat interview.
Cain is an associate minister at Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta. He loves to sing hymns from the stage. And yet his fellow church members prefer to keep mum about the candidate — the Rev. Cameron Alexander, longtime pastor of the church, included. Another sealed compartment.
The 65-year-old Cain has campaigned on his business acumen, pointing to his rescue of Godfather’s Pizza. But his former business associates have largely declined to talk about Cain’s years at the helm of the company. Yet another closed door.
Less talked about is Cain’s place within the infrastructure of the Georgia GOP. Cain moved back to Georgia in 2000 and ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate in 2004. But his presidential campaign, though run from an office near the Eagle’s Landing Country Club, was originally staffed from out of state.
His relationship with longtime leaders of the state Republican party might be described as distant.
Cain’s most public relationship in Georgia may be with Neal Boortz, the radio host for whom Cain sometimes subbed on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB. On Tuesday, only a few hours after White’s allegations became public, Boortz was asked his opinion of his friend.
“I know Herman Cain. This does not sound like Herman Cain to me. It doesn’t sound like him,” Boortz said. “Additionally, it is very curious to me that every allegation against Herman Cain has come from his three years at the National Restaurant Association.”
Boortz was implying a conspiracy, which is an exciting option. Less exciting is not knowing the people you call friend as well as you might. In the end, Boortz said, it may be time for Cain to think about retiring from the field – for the sake of his family.
Cain’s protests this week have included a tone of outrage — that one piece of his world would wander uncontrolled into another. In his pre-emptive interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer – anticipating White’s charges – Cain was asked if more accusations could follow.
“When someone that appears to be a friend, turns around and concocts this story, you’ve got to question – the hundreds of thousands of people that I have met in my life, a hundred thousand people could possibly come out,” a frustrated Cain said.
Curiously, this week’s best argument for a compartmentalized life came from Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, in a letter to Fox 5 Atlanta – which broke the White story.
“This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults — a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public,” Wood wrote. “The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door.”
It was a noble statement of principle, which fell with a dull thud in a political contest for the hearts and minds of a Republican and largely conservative Christian electorate.
An electorate that might argue that a man’s religious principles ought to freely swap around to other parts of his life, mixing like gravy into vegetables on a plate.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider